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Having a Blast with Kokuga

Kokuga is a shoot 'em up game that was released for the Nintendo 3DS e-shop during June for the US and July for Europe. The game was developed by G.rev and Hiroshi Iuchi, who was also responsible for the shooter game Ikaruga. Kokuga sees you command a single tank against swarms of enemies, dodging bullets and blasting back enemies in typical shooter fashion.

Kokuga is not exactly story heavy. It revolves around a war between nation A and nation I. Yes, you read correctly. The story never really appears except in the pieces of pre mission text you get before the three “final” missions.

The stage selection menu in Kokuga is set out in a triangle. At first you can choose any of the missions except the final three which stand at the corners. However, once you complete one mission you are then locked into only being able to pick from any of the ones adjacent to it. This means you essentially have to work your way around the triangle, reaching and completing each final stage. There is no saving either, so if you have to complete the game in one sitting or start over. Each mission except the final ones has three difficulty levels and a boss mode.

Increasing the difficulty in Kokuga results in enemies taking more damage. It's easy to understand. An enemy who took one shot to kill will now take two and so on. This does not apply for the smallest of enemies, who always take one shot. Some weak enemies will also get replaced by stronger ones, but there's never anything too drastic.

Most of the missions play out in the same fashion. You move through the map, weaving between enemy bullets and shooting them back. At the end of each mission there is usually a powerful boss who can be quite challenging for the unprepared. Each mission might have emphasis certain kinds of enemies or might have a gimmick attached to it, but for the most part the same kind of careful strategies will serve you well through out the entire game. Some however do mix things up. One mission involved having to fight four bosses for example, and another was set out like a vertical shump.

Enemies tend to come in three varieties. Firstly you have turrets which don't move and can only shoot at certain angles. Next up you have tanks that are large, slow moving enemies. Finally you have small enemies of average speed. Among these you also have various different shot types, ranging from easy to avoid single and duel shots to homing shots and laser cannons that can shred your tank if they so much as touch it. One issue that detracts slightly from the difficulty of the game is how enemy bullets tend to have a very limited travel distance before disappearing. Most enemies can be comfortably beaten by just staying out of their range, and most move too slowly compared to your tank to pose any danger.

Enemies tend to pose the most danger when they appear in large numbers. I usually only found myself getting hit when there was a large number of bullets to keep track of at the same time.

The visual design of the levels in Kokuga feels like it's severely lacking. With the exception of the final three the missions all use the same grid effect combined with a coloured border (green, orange, or red depending on difficulty) and grey blocks. You might see a slightly different background underneath the grid, but I hardly noticed these when I was concentrating on playing.

That said the design of Kokuga does at least convey the military and futuristic warfare setting of the game.

On the bottom screen you can select various power up cards to aid you battle. These include new shot types which can drastically increase your damage output to defensive measures such as stealth and forcefields. For the most part, at least on normal difficulty, these power ups are best saved for the boss fights. You only have four out at a time and the order they are presented to you is random, meaning you might have to waste a few cards in order to get to the one you're looking for. For me this was only really an issue whenever I wanted to get access to the card that restored the shield. Some shot types also felt far more useful than others. The double shot could hardly compare to the power of the laser or the radial laser.

has a rather slow paced feel to it compared to other shooters. This is no more apparent, and irritating, when it comes to moving the turret. This is done by pressing the L or R buttons on the 3DS to move it around 360 degrees. It was frustrating when I needed to turn it to face the opposite way, which felt like it could not come soon enough. This was especially the case when it came to quite a few of the boss battles. Some of the bosses move surprisingly swiftly across the battlefield and have specific weak points that must be targeted. The slowness of the turret combined with the slight lack of precision meant that tackling these bosses without the use of the special weapons was a serious pain.

Lastly, Kokuga also features local and download play multiplayer options, allowing up to four people to play co-op.

Kokuga can feel fairly challenging at times, but it also seems rather repetitive. It's a fun game to pass the time. It's an enjoyable bite sized title for someone looking for a slower paced shoot 'em up game for the 3DS. However, at $14.99 and £13.49 I can't say it's an absolute bargain. For more information and screenshots you can visit the official website.

You can also view this post on my personal blog.

(Images taken from http://www.nintendo.com)
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About Shuudaone of us since 5:34 PM on 03.27.2012

Online I go by the alias of Shuuda. I am currently living North Yorkshire, England. In 2011 I graduated from the University of Hull with a first class degree in Design for Digital Media, where I studied both the creative and theoretical sides of the digital technology and the internet.

As someone who is passionate about about video games than the fantasy genre, I am highly interested in how stories can be told through interactive media. I concern myself with how the genre is portrayed within the medium and its implications. I give it both criticism and praise, but mostly criticism. Writing fiction has been my hobby for many years, and I feel that video games have influenced and inspired the content of my work in recent times.


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